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Remembering the Golden Venture -- 20 years later

Written by Matt Paul, Reporter/Producer | Jun 4, 2013 3:46 PM
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Attorney Jeff Lobach appeared on Tuesday's Radio Smart Talk with Mary Weaver of the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center

(Harrisburg) -- This week marks the 20th anniversary of when a cargo ship named the Golden Venture ran aground in Queens, New York. The nearly 300 passengers were trying to escape China's forced-sterilization policy and York County wound up at the center of the refugees' subsequent struggle for human rights.

The refugees were immediately detained by the US government and the largest contingent was housed at the York County prison.

Attorney Jeff Lobach, then president of the York County Bar Association, helped to fight for their asylum. He tells witf's Radio Smart Talk the 154 detainees being held in York County were caught up in the politics of the day.

"This was part of a coordinated effort. The White House, the State Department and the Justice Department were all on the same page with this," Lobach says. "State Department put out a statement saying 99% of these refugees' stories are bogus, the Justice Department said we're doing this to send a signal to China and the White House was making similar statements."

"So the whole idea here was to send this message to China that these detainees were unwelcome and they were using legitimate refugees to send that message."

Some detainees won asylum on appeal, while others were deported. It wasn't until 1997 that the last 31 detainees were released from the county prison.

Mary Weaver of the Pennsylvania Immigration Resource Center calls the case a lesson in remaining vigilant to protect human rights.

You can hear the entire story of the Golden Venture on Radio Smart Talk.

Published in News, York

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